Biden’s EPA accused of yielding to industry over gas-fired power plants

The Biden administration faces criticism for delaying crucial regulations on gas-fired power plants, raising concerns about the commitment to environmental promises.


In a move that has sparked significant backlash from environmental groups and youth-led climate organizations, the Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made a contentious decision to delay regulatory action on existing gas-fired power plants. This decision exempts these major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions from forthcoming rules aimed at curbing climate change, raising serious concerns about the administration’s commitment to its environmental promises.

E&E News first reported this shift in strategy, highlighting that the delay “could push a major part of the president’s fight against global warming until after the November election.” This development has particularly alarmed the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate advocacy group, which accused the administration of “caving to pressure” from industry lobbyists.

According to the EPA’s revised plan, while rules for existing coal-fired and future natural gas plants are expected to be finalized in April, existing gas-fired plants—the nation’s top electricity generators—will not be subject to these new limits. EPA Administrator Michael Regan defended the decision, arguing that separating the rules would allow the agency to adopt “a new, comprehensive approach” that covers a broader range of pollutants.

However, this rationale has not quelled the discontent among climate advocates. The Sunrise Movement expressed its disappointment, stressing that the administration’s inconsistent approach to climate action is jeopardizing its support among young voters. “Biden is on thin ice with young people,” the group stated, underscoring the need for more decisive action rather than intermittent gestures towards environmental progress.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a prominent voice on environmental issues in the Senate, echoed these concerns. He criticized the EPA’s decision to exclude existing gas plants from stricter regulations, highlighting the absurdity of omitting a significant source of future carbon pollution from the power sector. “EPA’s new power plant rule omits a massive emissions source: existing gas power plants…is not how we are going to reach climate safety,” Whitehouse remarked, emphasizing the urgency of addressing these emissions given the escalating climate crisis.

The decision also raises environmental justice issues, as many gas-fired plants are located near disadvantaged communities that bear the brunt of air pollution. While the EPA’s approach aims to address local pollutants, critics argue that it falls short of the comprehensive climate action needed to protect these frontline communities from the broader impacts of climate change.

The utility industry’s lobbying efforts against more stringent regulations on gas plants have been cited as a potential factor in the EPA’s decision-making process. The initial proposal, which faced industry pushback for its reliance on carbon capture technology, has been significantly diluted, prompting accusations of the administration yielding to industry pressure.

The postponement of regulations for existing gas plants not only undermines the United States’ climate goals but also risks making any future regulatory efforts contingent on the outcomes of the 2024 election. With former President Donald Trump, a known opponent of environmental regulations, poised to run again, the future of these crucial climate policies hangs in the balance.

Abigail Dillen, president of Earthjustice, offered a more optimistic view, suggesting that the EPA’s decision to pursue separate regulations for existing gas plants could lead to more ambitious standards. Nonetheless, the Sunrise Movement warned that any delay could be detrimental, stating, “That’s not how a climate president acts.”

The EPA has committed to engaging with the public and stakeholders on the new rule for existing gas plants, although the timeline suggests that a proposal may not be ready until after 2024, with the rulemaking process typically taking up to two years.

As the Biden administration navigates the complex terrain of environmental policy, industry interests, and political considerations, the decision to delay action on gas-fired power plants has emerged as a flashpoint in the broader debate over climate action. This move has left many questioning whether the administration can fulfill its environmental promises and lead the nation towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

In the face of mounting climate challenges and escalating calls for decisive action, the administration’s next steps will be closely watched by advocates, policymakers, and the global community alike. The urgency of the climate crisis demands bold leadership and unwavering commitment to transformative policies that prioritize the health of the planet and its inhabitants over short-term political or industry interests.


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